21.06.2024

Cancer targets are being MERGED not scrapped, claims Tory health minister who believes it is the ‘right thing to do’

Cancer targets are being ‘merged’ instead of scrapped, a health minister insisted today. Under plans yet to be formally announced, the NHS will adopt just three targets on treating and diagnosing patients quicker. Currently, trusts are assessed against ten different measures.

Will Quince, who sits underneath Health Secretary Steve Barclay, argued that it was the ‘right thing to do’.

But he also acknowledged it was ‘something that the NHS in Wales did back in 2018’.

It comes after the Tories tore into the Labour-run health service in Wales, pointing to its ‘abysmal’ record as proof ‘they can’t be trusted in England’.

Under plans yet to be formally announced, the NHS will adopt just three targets on treating and diagnosing patients quicker. Currently, trusts are assessed against ten different measures. Will Quince, who sits underneath Health Secretary Steve Barclay, argued that it was the ‘right thing to do’

Under plans yet to be formally announced, the NHS will adopt just three targets on treating and diagnosing patients quicker. Currently, trusts are assessed against ten different measures. Will Quince, who sits underneath Health Secretary Steve Barclay, argued that it was the 'right thing to do'

The decision to scrap the seven cancer targets – set to be confirmed tomorrow – has sparked huge backlash. The commitments being ditched include the two-week urgent referral from a GP for suspected cancer and a maximum two-week wait for breast-cancer patients to see a specialist.

The decision to scrap the seven cancer targets – set to be confirmed tomorrow – has sparked huge backlash. The commitments being ditched include the two-week urgent referral from a GP for suspected cancer and a maximum two-week wait for breast-cancer patients to see a specialist. The NHS will now be expected to ensure 75 per cent of patients have a diagnosis or all-clear within 28 days. There will also be a maximum 31-day wait for patients to start their first treatment and a 62-day target for treatment to begin after a GP referral

The NHS will now be expected to ensure 75 per cent of patients have a diagnosis or all-clear within 28 days. There will also be a maximum 31-day wait for patients to start their first treatment and a 62-day target for treatment to begin after a GP referral

Every hospital across the country is expected to hit ten separate cancer time targets, centered around seeing suspected patients, catching their disease quickly and starting their treatment. The biggest four are: Two Week Wait From GP Urgent Referral to First Consultant Appointment (top left); One Month Wait from a Decision to Treat to a First Treatment for Cancer (bottom left); Four Week (28 days) Wait From Urgent Referral to Patient Told they have Cancer, or Cancer is Definitively Excluded (top right; and Two Month Wait from GP Urgent Referral to a First Treatment for Cancer (bottom right)

Every hospital across the country is expected to hit ten separate cancer time targets, centered around seeing suspected patients, catching their disease quickly and starting their treatment. The biggest four are: Two Week Wait From GP Urgent Referral to First Consultant Appointment (top left); One Month Wait from a Decision to Treat to a First Treatment for Cancer (bottom left); Four Week (28 days) Wait From Urgent Referral to Patient Told they have Cancer, or Cancer is Definitively Excluded (top right; and Two Month Wait from GP Urgent Referral to a First Treatment for Cancer (bottom right)

Analysis yesterday revealed patients are waiting an average of five weeks longer for NHS treatment in Wales than in England.

The decision to scrap the seven cancer targets – set to be confirmed tomorrow – has sparked huge backlash.

Campaigners warned that current performance against the indicators is ‘shockingly bad’ and described the move to axe them ‘deeply worrying’.

Yet the health service says the changes will benefit patients, getting them diagnosed quicker and boosting their survival chances.

The commitments being ditched include the two-week urgent referral from a GP for suspected cancer and a maximum two-week wait for breast-cancer patients to see a specialist.

Under the rules, 93 per cent of patients should see a consultant within two weeks of an urgent referral by their GP.

But this has not been achieved consistently since 2018.

Dire performance data show the NHS in England is failing against nine of the existing targets. Hospital trusts are not judged against a figure for the other measure.

Mr Quince told Sky News the changes will ‘focus on outcomes and cut bureaucracy’.

He said: ‘This is an announcement due to be made following a consultation.

‘This is not something the Government has led on but it’s NHS England, oncologists, clinicians and, indeed, cancer charities have called for this change.

‘No targets are actually being scrapped – they’re being merged into three targets, which I think, and all of those experts and specialists are saying, is the right thing to do: focusing on outcomes and cutting out bureaucracy for clinicians.

‘NHS England and oncologists… actually think by moving to three targets, including the faster diagnosis standard, means that actually people get a faster diagnosis as a result.

‘This is not something where we’re leading on and actually this is something that the NHS in Wales did back in 2018.’

The NHS will now be expected to ensure 75 per cent of patients have a diagnosis or all-clear within 28 days.

There will also be a maximum 31-day wait for patients to start their first treatment and a 62-day target for it to begin after a GP referral.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer yesterday accused the Government of ‘moving the goalposts’ on cancer targets.

He added: ‘I want swifter diagnosis, of course I do — both for the individuals concerned and obviously for the health service.

‘The way to do that is to have a health service that’s fit for the future. We haven’t got one.’

He said: ‘With this Government, it’s targets that they’ve repeatedly failed to hit. And now what they’re doing is moving the goalposts and even where they’re keeping targets after this streamlining, there’s targets they’re still not hitting.’

MailOnline's audit also revealed 27 NHS trusts have never managed to hit the NHS's freshest target, introduced in 2021 as part of the Government's 'war on cancer'. Under an ambitious plan ex-health secretary Sajid Javid said would 'save more lives', hospitals were told to ensure 75 per cent of patients are told they have cancer or given the all-clear within 28 days of being urgently referred with suspected symptoms. The NHS in England has only hit the target once in the 26 months it has been operational for. % figure refers to performance in 2023 so far

MailOnline’s audit also revealed 27 NHS trusts have never managed to hit the NHS’s freshest target, introduced in 2021 as part of the Government’s ‘war on cancer’. Under an ambitious plan ex-health secretary Sajid Javid said would ‘save more lives’, hospitals were told to ensure 75 per cent of patients are told they have cancer or given the all-clear within 28 days of being urgently referred with suspected symptoms. The NHS in England has only hit the target once in the 26 months it has been operational for. % figure refers to performance in 2023 so far

Survival rates are also at an all-time high thanks to medical advances and schemes designed to spot the disease early, when it is easier to treat. Such programmes include pop-up diagnostic centres in shopping centres, car parks and football grounds

Survival rates are also at an all-time high thanks to medical advances and schemes designed to spot the disease early, when it is easier to treat. Such programmes include pop-up diagnostic centres in shopping centres, car parks and football grounds

Cancer Research UK estimates cancer cases will rise from the 384,000 cases per year now to 506,000 in 2040, if current trends continue. While survival rates have improved, the UK continues to lag behind much of Europe with deaths set to rise by almost quarter from 167,000 to 208,000, over the same period. It warned the ‘NHS risks being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new cancer diagnoses’ unless more is done to tackle preventable causes like obesity and train more staff. While most of the rise is due to an ageing population, the charity also said issues such as obesity and smoking are contributing to the rise

Huge medical breakthroughs mean that cancer is no longer a guaranteed 'death sentence', top experts have said. Data shows survival rates have soared over the past 50 years. Only one in four men with prostate cancer in the 1970s would be lucky enough to live to see the next decade. Today the reverse is true, with 75 per cent of men diagnosed with the disease still alive a decade later, figures show

Huge medical breakthroughs mean that cancer is no longer a guaranteed ‘death sentence’, top experts have said. Data shows survival rates have soared over the past 50 years. Only one in four men with prostate cancer in the 1970s would be lucky enough to live to see the next decade. Today the reverse is true, with 75 per cent of men diagnosed with the disease still alive a decade later, figures show

It comes after analysis yesterday revealed the typical wait for routine care, not for cancer, is around 19 weeks in Wales and 14 weeks in England.

The median wait for treatment after referral in England was 14.3 weeks in June, the most recently available month for which data is available.

This has been relatively stable in recent months, down from 14.6 weeks in January 2023 but up slightly from 14.1 weeks in May.

However, the median wait for treatment after referral in Wales was 19.1 weeks in May, the most recently available month for which data is available.

Sir Keir praised the Welsh government run by Mark Drakeford last March, saying it is ‘living proof of what Labour in power looks like — how things can be done differently and better’.

On Sunday, Health Secretary Steve Barclay wrote to Welsh and Scottish ministers to say he is ‘open to requests’ for their patients to be treated on the NHS in England amid record waits for care in the devolved nations.

In response, Wales’ health minister Eluned Morgan accused Mr Barclay of a ‘naked political hit’ — but admitted waiting times were a problem.

The health service says the changes will benefit patients — but campaigners warn that current performance against the indicators is ‘shockingly bad’ and described the move to axe them ‘deeply worrying’.

Analysis by MailOnline last month also revealed the scale of England’s ‘disgraceful’ cancer crisis.

Just one hospital — Calderdale and Huddersfield — out of more than 120 across the country has managed to hit the biggest four of the ten cancer time targets so far in 2023.

Charities claim declining numbers of staff, combined with the knock-on effects of Covid, have created a perfect storm.

NHS bosses argue they are seeing more patients than ever as part of the fight against cancer, despite the slump in performance.

For instance, urgent referrals have doubled in a decade, largely down to government awareness campaigns urging patients to come forward with suspected symptoms.

NHS chiefs also say the majority of cancer-stricken patients are happy with the care they receive.

Survival rates are also at an all-time high thanks to medical advances and schemes designed to spot the disease early, when it is easier to treat.

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